Please note – this is not the website for The Hub cycle cafe in Redbourn. If you’re trying to make contact with this wonderful place, please follow this link – click here
Go into any “normal” bike shop and you are greeted by the smell of the tyres. Go into The Hub, in Redbourn, Hertfordshire and you are greeted by the smell of really nice coffee. The next greeting comes from Simon Barnes, the owner, who happened to be sitting just inside reading a magazine.
“Hello, welcome. Would you like a coffee? Are you a cyclist?”
Needless to say that was the cue for a very pleasant conversation and half hour spent in this lovely place. It is described as a refuge for cyclists and a coffee bar. I think it’s more than that.
For the benefit of my American readers, this is a quirky, frightfully English, slightly eccentric establishment which “cocks a hoot” at the uniform, corporate and predictable coffee shops, bike shops and sitting rooms. Did I say “sitting room”? Well, that’s just what it’s like when you go in. There’s a nice cosy feel, with it’s rustic charm, odd furniture, neat-but-not-too-tidy feel. All around there are bits of bicycle memorabilia, magazines to read through and enjoy.
In conversation with Simon, a very easy-to-get-along-with host, he explained how he started his little enterprise and comes across as thoroughly enjoying himself. What makes this work so well is the informality and he certainly doesn’t take himself too seriously. What he does take seriously is ensuring his customers get a hearty welcome and this is extended naturally to all cyclists, locals popping in for a natter and so on (it’s almost like a local ‘pub’).
As far as bikes are concerned, outside there were a couple of vintage bikes for sale. Both in excellent condition and well presented. From memory one was a Rudge, the other a Flying Pigeon; should give an idea of the era they hail from. Inside there was a newish Trek road bike for sale at £495 and further back in the shop there was a handful of more upmarket machines with four figure price tags. Some were new, some were used. Dotted around that area were some accessories and they’re happily to carry out repairs. This could be handy as the shop is strategically positioned within a few yards of the Chiltern Cycle Way.
Simon is a natural host. I got the impression he’s be happy to chat all day about the latest bike scene, who’s who in the racing world and his observations on these things. He is rightly proud of the cafe side of things too. I must confess I didn’t have enough time on my side to sample anything and report to you now but that must be a good reason to go back some other time. He was keen to explain the workings of the bespoke Italian coffee making equipment, together with it’s ultra-fresh coffee; the local home-made cakes, flapjacks and other tempting snacks. I’m pretty sure Simon mentioned they use the kitchen at the nearby Redbournbury flour mill for some of their wares – that is also a lovely place to visit (and sometimes we’ve bought our bread making flour from there).
I need to go back some time before too long. I didn’t get a coffee, or one of those lovely cakes and I need to soak up the atmosphere a little more. Plus I need to take some better photographs next time!
We need places like this. For anyone cycling in the area, why not go and have a coffee and cake in the quirkiest coffee-come-bike shop around (unless you know different?). Please feel very welcome, I’d love to know if you’ve been there and what cake you had….